Installing Linux as the main operating system on a spare computer is one way to explore it. Some versions can also run live on a CD or DVD, but a more flexible choice may be to run it “virtually.” That way, it can run within Windows or Mac OS X and a variety of Linux versions can be installed. Programs like VirtualBox or VMware Fusion make this possible.
To do this, you will need to figure out a few things. Does your computer have a 32-bit or 64-bit processor? (Most newer ones are 64-bit, but Linux is available for either.) And you may need to enable your processor’s virtualization capabilities. If you become stuck, plenty of online tutorials are available to help.
There are many types of Linux. At their core, many are the same. But their interfaces and applications may differ, as well as the level of support from the open-source community.
Read more at the New York Times.